We awoke Saturday morning to the sound of sweet singing and drumming of African children from the nearby morning mass being held at the Pre-School in Entebbe. Roosters and raucous jungle birds added their interjections. We soon were shaking hands with the singers outside, as they introduced themselves in quiet soft voices, told us we were welcome, and asking our names in return
(a process to be repeated often during our whole trip). Jay Bayer, his son Joe, and daughters Julie and Olivia served up our "continental" breakfast of jam and fat spread (butter substance) on bread with a side of eggs, and filled us in on stories of their past two weeks spent surveying and mapping two of the SND sites. They energetically assured us that there was nothing to worry about during our stay, be it food or sickness or wild animals.
The Bayers and our group were toured around the Preschool grounds, which included plenty of banana trees, a coffee tree, a cassava patch, and a low wet area that may become an aquaculture pond. Our two groups parted ways, the Bayers off to the airport and us into Kampala to exchange currency and purchase cheap cell phones for in-country use. Our driver, a man named Friday, expertly negotiated the chaotic mixed flow of vans, motorcycles (boda bodas), bicycles, pedestrianbs, and jaywalkers without the aid of pesky painted lane lines. The boda bodas almost always carried a passenger and enough cargo to fill a small pickup truck (couches, set of 4 car tires stacked, a bundle of 30' rebar getting dragged along, sideways acetylene welding tanks). We did get into a traffic jam due to a boda boda accident (to keep the risks in perspective), but luckily the only fatality seemed to be the watermelon splashed across the road.
Open air markets lined both sides of the road, like a single-aisled Home Depot and a Super Walmart that went on for miles. Workers fabricated their goods on location. We passed building materials, water tanks, furniture, produce, slabs of beef hanging from hooks, and aromatic "pork joints" presumably serving BBQ.
We walked past police carrying semi-automatics to a Forex in downtown Kampala guarded by a cherub-faced man armed with a single-shot rifle. One U.S. dollar buys 2500 Ugandan shillings, enough to later buy a chicken-and-chips lunch for $3 and reserve a hotel room for $12.
Departing the city going west, we wound through one roundabout after another, past trash heaps and slums and squatter camps, across papyrus marshes, and finally on the road to Mbende. Endless rumble strips rattled the windows and the teeth, and huge speedbumps forced the van to a crawl through every town along the way. Though our van was like most others on the road, our seven pale white faces drew more and more stares the further we went.
We passed banana groves, sugar cane, maize patches, planted pines, piles of raw clay bricks waiting to be fired, termite mounds, and the occasional cow or goat tethered to graze on the shoulder. Pedestrian and boda boda traffic was steady even on the long stretches between towns. Trenching for a roadside conduit ran for at least 30 miles, broken into segments being hand-dug by different work crews standing waist-deep in the deep red clay earth.
A lunchtime conversation with Friday brought up issues about government corruption that translates into predatory harassment of common people. Ordinary events like renewing a drivers license or discovering a broken headlight become full obstacles to conducting ordinary business until the proper bribe is paid. Civil servants who haven't been paid in 3 months turn to their own resources and use their positions to extort their income from the citizens they are supposed to be serving.
Finally, the pavement ended in Mbende after 4 hours of driving. The rest of the way to Buseesa was negotiated on a hilly, winding dusty road punctuated by rocks, washboard, and washouts. We were greeted warmly at the SND Academy and shown to rooms that greatly exceeded our expectations - the Sisters of Notre Dame build quality into their facilities as well as their programs, and show that their efforts are intended to last. The Sisters and aspirants prepared a terrific pasta dinner including avocado and beans from their grounds. After a short game of cards and a valiant effort to send nighttime email via a solar-powered satellite connection, we retired to our bunks eager for the next day.